“According to the ACLU, there are at least 3,278 human beings serving mandatory life sentences for nonviolent drug and property crimes in the country. America will spend over $1.7 billion to keep those 3,278 people imprisoned for the rest of their lives,” says attorney MiAngel Cody.
The country’s drug policy is fundamentally flawed, for the last 25 years, with the policy entitled “War on Drugs”. During this time, there were mandatory sentencing guidelines and the judges felt they were forced to follow the law.
Many prisoners have been caught up in a time capsule, and in 25 years new laws have been passed and others struck down by the Supreme Court and Congress. Congress passed the “Fair Sentencing Act of 2010,” which restored the individualized sentencing discretion for judges. The Supreme Court declared that it is constitutionally cruel and unusual punishment to sentence any juvenile to mandatory life without the possibility of parole.
As a result of this reform of the mandatory minimum sentencing for nonviolent crimes, a Clemency Project was started during President Obama’s time in office. Over 30,000 prisoners applied for clemency, and between 2012 to 2017, President Obama freed 1,716 men and women by using his presidential clemency powers.
This was a historic period and a large percentage of these prisoners were Black. President Obama determined the system had disproportionally impacted men and women of color. The “War on Drugs” was a war on Black, Brown, and poor people. The majority of these prisoners had been sentenced to die in prison.
“As a society, what have we become over the last 20 years? We have watched exponential growth in the number of human beings held by privately owned prison corporations. We failed to notice when Corrections Corporation of America, Inc., the self-described nation’s leading provider of correctional solutions to federal, state, and local government has made nearly $2 billion annually in recent years,” says MiAngel Cody.
Decarceration Collective was created and formed out of these draconian policies which are cruel and inhumane, and over 3,000 prisoners are being held under these outdated laws. The majority of lawyers are Black women and the firm Decarceration Collective has won the freedom of over 34 prisoners. With the addition of Kim Kardashian, her lawyer Brittany Barnett, and the founder MiAngel Cody, 17 prisoners were freed recently in 90 days.
This was historic, and the majority of these prisoners were serving life sentences for drugs. These Black women lawyers are calling their project “90 Days of Freedom.” Kim Kardashian is footing the bill, and there are many people working behind the scenes to execute the project.
These women are laying the groundwork in a joint effort to get prison sentences lowered, and confront America’s addiction to incarceration.
Brittany Barnett said, “People set to die in prison are now free. Our clients weren’t even on this selective list the Sentencing Commission sent out or on federal defenders’ radar. In fact we have copies of letters federal defenders sent some of our clients telling them they weren’t even eligible for relief under the First Step Act – but we got them free.”
This is a comprehensive program and once the prisoners are free, they need other services to survive outside. The lawyers and their teams are providing the prisoners with re-entry stipends, and some are being picked up upon release.
The criminal and penal system is broken in America, and once someone is in the system, it appears the individual is in or will be back in for their entire life. As we fail to rehabilitate prisoners, we forget about these human beings, and the system is fundamentally flawed, cruel, and inhumane.